Senator Vernon White is defending the Royal Canadian Mounted Police's decision to listen to a journalist's phone conversations in 1992 in the aftermath of a deadly bomb attack in Yellowknife.

According to White, former assistant commissioner for information and identification with the RCMP, the phone-tapping was justified.

"It was a murder. Nine people were killed," he told Radio-Canada, highlighting the exceptional nature of the situation.

White was referring to the September 18, 1992 bombing at Giant Mine, in which over 40 kilograms of explosives 230 metres below ground killed nine men.

He said the surveillance measures were authorized by a judge following the bomb attack and that the judge's clearance was very difficult to obtain.

"The journalist was doing interviews with suspects and we had to know if a suspect would confess to his crime," White told Radio-Canada.

Just over a year after the bombing, 49-year-old union member Roger Warren was arrested. He was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison for killing nine men, who were replacement workers or those who had crossed a picket line in a labour dispute with mine owner Royal Oak.

Phone-tapping by Montreal police

Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale defended the RCMP earlier this year when asked if the force used phone tapping the way Montreal police had done with La Presse journalist Patrick Lagacé.

He said that this kind of activity is not happening now at the RCMP, but added that he is not aware of what may have happened during previous governments.

White said what the RCMP did 25 years ago was very different from what the SPVM did to Lagacé.

He said the Montreal police went too far when they gained access to Lagacé's incoming and outgoing calls, along with text messages.

With files from Radio-Canada's Guillaume Dumont